The power of truly personalised employment support

Victoria Whittle, Head of Jobs and Training at Clarion Futures, the charitable foundation of Clarion Housing Group

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04 07 2024

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In this guest blog from Clarion Futures, sponsors of the Employment and Skills Convention 2024, Victoria Whittle reflects on Active Inclusion, a programme supporting people with complex barriers to employment.

It’s fair to say we learned a lot over the seven years we led the Love London Working employment programme, supporting 26,000 unemployed Londoners with advice and training, with more than 8,100 finding work.

Whilst we’ve always known that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to employment support, through Love London Working we took this one step further. Providing truly tailored and holistic employment support is vital for those furthest from the labour market, helping to overcome complex barriers including long-term unemployment, disability and skills shortages.

That’s why we created our Active Inclusion programme which launched in September 2020 and was named ‘Tailored Employment Support Programme of the Year’ at the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) Employability Awards towards the end of last year.

This innovative programme supports residents with multiple needs considered to be some way from being ‘job-ready’. Through a truly person-centred approach, we help them overcome barriers to work, including lack of digital literacy and functional skills, debt and mental health issues, as well as physical disabilities.

This 360-degree support programme empowers individuals to achieve their goals through a journey tailored to them. From walking groups and drama workshops to digital skills sessions and job clubs, we meet people where they are, and help them get to where they want to be.

For a lot of the people we work with through the Active Inclusion programme, a lack of self-confidence can be a huge issue, perhaps due to time out of the workplace or a perceived lack of qualifications or skills. For others, the prospect of travelling to a workplace can be a challenge due to anxiety, so we might start by organising to meet at a local coffee shop to get them out of the house, before encouraging them to get on local buses and providing travel training to get them into busier places further from home.

We also find that health issues can present challenges for people, with feelings of uncertainty about how a potential employer would react. We work together to find ways around this, empowering people to take control of their situation and find a role that works for them and an employer understanding of their circumstances.

The success of the programme can’t be attributed to just one thing, but for me one of the most important things is the fact that our advisers really take their time to understand each person’s situation and the barriers they are facing, building rapport and trust. We go at the pace that suits each individual, ticking off steps on their action plan as we go and using ‘progress points’ to measure their journey and achievements.

It’s not just about the end goal, however. Just as important as securing and sustaining employment is the impact on wellbeing, with feedback from many participants highlighting a boost to self-confidence and the development of other ‘soft skills’ thanks to the programme.

Whilst Love London Working has come to an end, we’ve embedded Active Inclusion into our national employability support offer, helping to expand our reach, improve life chances and support more people into work.

And as we look to the future, we’d love to join forces with employers and other key stakeholders, including the new government, to co-create programmes and opportunities that help bridge that gap between employers and those that are job seeking, bringing these communities together to create lasting change.

Find out more about the Employment and Skills Convention 2024

Employment and Skills Convention